There is a whole generation of teachers losing their jobs in Ontario right now. I’m calling them “new” teachers, but many of them are anything but “new.” Some of them have been teaching for 6+ years, and they are still finding themselves with precarious employment. This is awful for these teachers and their families, and it is also a significant blow to the profession.
I can’t speak to this experience first hand. I started teaching thirteen years ago. I waited one year for permanent lines, and I’ve never been declared redundant to the board. I was able to start my family because of my job security. But things have changed. To many new teachers, my career trajectory is the stuff of myth because this doesn’t happen anymore. Yet they come to work everyday tireless in their efforts and energy, hoping to secure employment, but also doing the job because they love it.
There are so many things wrong with what is happening in Ontario right now. Claims that the effectiveness of the teachers is what matters in the classroom conveniently ignore the working conditions that create an effective teacher. Many things help me work effectively and a workforce made up of teachers of diverse backgrounds, ages, and experiences is one of them. I need new teachers in my life, and if you are another teacher, a parent, an administrator, or a student- you do too.
In order to write this post, I came up with a list of new teachers that I’ve worked within the last 5 years and started making notes about what I’ve learned from them. However, the list kept growing, and I had so much to say about each of them that my post would’ve been thousands of words. Every time I thought I was finished, I would bump into another teacher who has influenced my practice. Instead, I’ve created a list of the things new teachers have taught me, and I’m hoping that after you finish reading this post, you’ll comment about what a new teacher has taught you and share #newteachersarevaluable.
Professional Growth that New Teachers Inspired
- This blog would not have happened without the encouragement of a new teacher
- Much of the material for my reflections on here come from new teachers. If you’d like to read a post inspired by or featuring or a new teacher see the list of strategies they’ve helped me test towards the end of this post.
- A new teacher taught me about how to include Indigenous literature in my classroom, while patiently answering all my questions and gently correcting my misconceptions.
- There is one new teacher in particular whose compassion and empathy have reminded me to always think about what is happening in the lives of my students before I ever make assumptions about them or their behaviour. This reminder makes me a better teacher every day. Actually, it makes me a better human being.
- I’ve learned about how to integrate the community into the classroom and school thanks to a new teacher.
- I had no idea what Knowledge Building was until two new teachers enthusiastically gave me private in-services every time we met. It has changed the way I think about how we share our thinking in the classroom.
- Many new teachers are actually second career teachers. These teachers remind me that there is a world outside the school system- an important reminder for someone who entered the school system at 5 and will exit at 55.
- Do you know how to use Team Drive on Google Docs? I didn’t. Until a new teacher showed me. He also set up a drive for me which I now share with every teacher who asks.
- Whenever I have lunch with a new teacher, they ask me a question that makes me think for days. Then they are usually subjected to a long follow up email about how my thinking has changed as a result of their question. This type of reflective material is invaluable.
- I’ve been trying to get students to buy into using assistive technology for years, but it wasn’t until I watched a new teacher talk to a whole class about technology using the language of speed and productivity instead of the language of assistance that I was able to start helping students “buy-in” to using technology for their learning
- A new teacher showed me PechaKucha presentations. If you’ve ever watched 30 student presentations, you will know the value of this to everyone in the classroom.
- Yesterday, I worked with a new science teacher who asked me to look at her SNC 2P (grade 10 applied science) lesson from a literacy perspective, and it was amazing. She was a reminder about what can happen in classrooms when we hold high expectations of all our students. She never once said they “can’t.” She believes they can, and she is determined to help them realize it.
- Many of these teachers have tested my theories for me during the past two years. When I come back from professional development, I don’t have my own classroom to try new ideas, so they open their rooms, and we try it together. Together we’ve tried many ideas
- Know/Wonder Charts
- The 75 Minute Classroom Routine
- Book Talks
- Mentor Texts
- Memory Mapping and Storyboarding
- Article Mapping
- Independent reading every day
- Going as gradeless as possible
- Novel units using Brother by David Chariandy, Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline, and Born A Crime by Trevor Noah
- Bump up Walls
- Single-Point Rubrics
- Quick Writes
- Types of feedback to give during the writing process
I wasn’t doing any of these things when I left my classroom, but I will be able to do all of them when I return because new teachers helped me workshop them.
To all the new teachers I’ve worked with these past several years, thank you for everything you have contributed to my own learning and the learning of your colleagues. Thank you for the passion and energy you inject into our schools every day. I’m sorry that you are in this position. I’m sorry that you’ve had to worry about your job for years. I hope you know that the value that you bring to your students and your colleagues every day. We want to see you in the classroom next door, teaching your heart out.
There are actions you can take right now that can influence the outcome of education in Ontario. Send an email to your MPP or firstname.lastname@example.org to give your feedback about the potential impact of class sizes. Also, take a minute to thank a new teacher for how they’ve contributed to your own growth or the growth of your child. They need all the encouragement they can get right now. #newteachersarevaluable